Like in every organization, in warehousing too, it’s the people who make a business. At a time when warehouse workers are swift to move from one warehouse to another, retaining them may seem to be a daunting task.
There are lot of challenges that managers face when it comes to attracting, recruiting and retaining workforce for warehouses. And, it holds true for lower through mid-levels of warehouse employees. The truth is that the warehouse manager needs to be smart in their approach to overcome the challenges that stare in their face.
So, before I move on to sharing these strategies, we should first recognize the challenges that businesses face in terms of warehouse workforce.
4 Toughest Workforce Challenges
1. High Attrition Rate in High Density Warehouse Areas
In areas of high-density warehouse facilities there is a lot of competition when it comes to attracting labor force, be it workers or managers. In such areas, even for a minor increase in hourly salaries, people like to switch jobs. That, now, is quite a pain for the managers who usually double up as a human resource manager.
2. Ageing Workforce / Unavailability of Young Work Force
Generation X – with skills, training, and the habit to stick around is ageing now. The millennials are not pretty much attracted to. It’s not yet a promising scene as far as employing young people is concerned. Let’s face it, it is not an attractive job at all. And the industry is, indeed, bearing the brunt of the image that looms large.
The fact is that the millennials make up for a large part of the warehouse workforce but it is very challenging to attract and retain them at the same time.
3. Unattractive Operating Hours/Shifts
The classic and the most popular model has been the three-shift model, but with globalization and the growth of e-commerce, warehouse operations go on for 24 hours.
The point is that the longer or more inconvenient the working hours, the lesser attractive the job is for people. And then, the seasonal demand creates so much of additional pressure on the employees as well as the managers.
4. The Training Process
Lack of talent is a big challenge for warehouse managers. And, even bigger than that is the challenge of training them, especially to deal with the advances in warehouse technology that is fast becoming a part of warehouse and logistics.
A manager, in this case, has a considerable amount of human resource management responsibilities on their hand. In cases when foreign labor or vernacular speaking labor is employed, the task of training becomes doubly taxing.
You need to recognize the signs indicating that the workforce is causing you losses. The key to tackling these 4 situations lies in strategizing. So, here are 4 smart strategies that can help businesses, especially operation managers and warehouse managers, overcome these mammoth tasks.
4 Smart Strategies to Combat Warehouse Worker Challenges
1. It Takes More than Money to Attract and Retain Workers
The BLS Economic News Release, January 9, 2018 reveals that until the last working day of November 2017, quits/attrition increased by 25,000 in just one month in transportation, warehousing and utilities. Evidently, an increasing number of people are leaving jobs in this sector.
The irony – they’d leave you for a little more increase in salary, but, it is not just money that makes them stay. The truth is that monetary incentives are an important part of the retention strategy, but they are not the only. There are more reasons for warehouse workers to quit and switch.
If I have to give a broad reason for employee attrition rate, it would be the discomfort with company/corporate culture and lack of career path rather than salary.
Here is what you must consider when trying to attract and retain warehouse employees:
- Market salary
- Attractive incentives like productivity bonuses, paid time-off, game tickets, team building trips, etc.
- Clean and safe workplace
- Healthcare benefits
- Access to training and skill upgrading programs
- Open communication
- Appreciation/recognition for a job well accomplished
- Constructive feedback through a performance management process
- A well-defined career path
2. The New Approach for Constantly Changing Workforce
The face of the workforce is constantly changing. In this case what you need is innovative warehouse management. The warehouse manager may need to fashion ways to take in their stride this drastic change in nature of workforce. The generation X (those born between 1965 to 1981) is getting older.
The present and future of the warehousing industry (be it in manufacturing or e-commerce) lies in the millennials (those born between 1982 to 2004). And, this very factor contributes to staff shortage as it is today. This is why an increasing number of businesses are trying to combat labor shortage with automation.
The new approach should now be to attract the younger staff in an innovative manner. One reason why you may also want to do it is because the youth has more affinity with technology and automated processes.
So, here is what you may consider doing, and in fact a considerable number of businesses are already doing this:
- Organize school visits to educate the youth about warehousing, especially, the working conditions and bust the myths that these are squalid places.
- Introduce apprentice schemes, especially through campus placements. That way you get future warehouse employees who are trained and tech-ready.
- You could also consider hiring agency workers if those fit into your high-demand seasonal plan, or for covering the absence of regular workers.
- Make your work hours flexible or annualized. That is likely to attract a lot of young labor.
3. Mold Hours to the Employees’ Advantage and Yours
The classic three-hour shift is not as popular as before, as the “always-on” businesses, especially e-commerce, demands 24-hour processes. An impressive number of businesses have thus adopted 12 hour shifts/ 4 working days pattern to be able to process round the clock.
The fact of the matter is that these two models demand a high level of warehouse management. In both these cases, you will need to ensure the arrangement of transportation for employees, appropriate break time, and substitute workers in case of absence to name only a few.
A certainly more useful pattern is annualized hours. Annualized hours give you maximum of flexibility and advantage. You pay the same amount to the staff every month, but the hours vary according to the amount of work each day.
This way, your warehouse workers will work longer shifts during high activity periods. But, for the periods that see low activity, you can send them home as soon as the work is done.
This model provides the most flexibility and highly reduces the need for hiring part-time and or agency staff in high-demand seasons.
Since annualized hours are highly flexible, they also give you brighter odds of employee retention as well as better customer service.
4. Start the Training Process with Analysis
Training is a complicated process. To ensure that you don’t go train the right resources for the right processes, it is important that you conduct an analysis first. You need to facilitate training to not only the new recruits, but also when any new technology or process is introduced.
However, before that is done, you need to analyze what sort of training is to be given to which resource. In order to do so, there are certain factors that you need to consider:
- The nature of work (training is a must in case of mechanical equipment handling/driving jobs; manual handling also needs lifting and placing training)
- The degree of safety needed for the job
- The physical and mental ability of the warehouse clerk
If the worker needs cross training because their job is closely aligned to another important process
- The affinity for standard language (you could consider language classes too or employing polyglots.)
"The only worse thing than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay."
Always remember; the workers are the soul of the warehouse. Getting good warehouse workers and keeping them can actually add a lot of value to your business.
This is why, it is important to take steps that help you recruit the best talent and keep it contributing to your business. These 4 smart human resource management strategies make it simpler for you.
As always, if there is anything else that you would like to know about this topic, or if you need some tips for improving your warehouse operations, do not hesitate to comment or contact us.